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Guadix lies half way between the village of Orce and the Andalucian capital Granada, also famous for its cave dwellings Guadix is another example of a picturesque Andalucian town. It is also home to a very special cheese.

Quesos de Leyva are so named after the Father of the producer not the town or village, yearly production barely exceeds two and a half thousand kilos so when owner Ignacio invited us to go along and take a look at this special cheese we simply had to oblige! Upon entering the farm you can immediately see that it is a very tight operation, a working farm with a mixture of caves and conventional farm buildings to house sheep and also Iberian pigs.

Quesos de Layva are different, you could say that the cheese has a certain pedigree as it is a cheese made with 100% pure sheep's milk which is only provided by their own stock. In fact, the whole process from breeding to the cheese production is done personally by Ignacio and his father at La Finca Castañuelo which is the name of their small farm in Guadix.

Even the feed for the sheep is made on the premises by the family and their workers. They have their own mill so carefully produce the highest quality feed from the best pure raw materials to ensure the finest milk and consequently, finest artisan cheese in the area. The ewes, from where the milk for the cheese comes, are all their own and occasionally they buy in specially selected males for breeding. The animals are then carefully tended to in situ on an ongoing basis to achieve the highest quality ewes yielding some of the finest milk in the area. Regular inspections of the animals, milk and cheese also take place and each animal has a unique number, as does the cheese so everything can be traced back to origin which ensures and guarantees quality.

Milking, which is done twice a day, takes place directly next to where production begins. It is here where the process starts. In a sterilised and optimally clean environment Ignacio explained the whole process from beginning to end which is done by Ignacio and his father following traditional, artisan methods of the highest sanitary standard. Once the cheese has been made it is left to cure for between 65 and 70 days in an environment with optimum humidity and temperatures. Once cured, they are then vacuum packed and stored at 4C° which is the perfect temperature and will ensure the cheese lasts.

Quesos de Leyva, is a small family run business which is the best kind of producer we like to work with and they represent the highest level of standards, quality and professionalism. The philosophy and vision of Quesos de Leyva is to always guarantee and assure customer satisfaction by providing the finest product, which has been hand made following traditional, artisan methods.

The resulting cheese from this wonderful family operation is a pure delight and a must for any cheese connoisseur. Packaged in various weights with the option of a fine extra virgin olive oil inside the cheese is rich, creamy, mild yet unmistakable and certainly unlike anything else in the ewes milk range.

The cheese is best enjoyed as Ignacio regularly does, before lunch at room temperature with a glass of red wine for the perfect aperitif. It is also delightful after dessert with fruit to end an evening meal in style.

Do we have a winner? Well we think so! After a trip around the farm and the acres attached it was time to sample some of the wine in the cave bodega, very palatable indeed but unfortunately not for sale! Cheese and wine . . . some of the regions finest complimentary flavours.

Serrano Ham direct from Spain :

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Published 07 May 2008

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